Great food, stunning views, mediterranean charm.
Graz is striking from all angles, but the best views are from above. There's no better place to start your exploration of Austria's second-largest city than on top of Schlossberg, a tree-covered hill in the city centre.
Take the funicular (or the elevator) up to Schlossberg’s southern ridge and grab breakfast at restaurant aiola upstairs. This modern eatery has an acclaimed menu and offers an incredible panorama over Graz’ historic centre. Gaze over the mix of Baroque steeples and terra-cotta roofs and you’ll notice the Mediterranean flavour that makes Graz so charming.
Walk over to Graz’ landmark - the Uhrturm - a 90 foot (28 meters) clocktower. It used to be part of a sprawling castle that stood on Schlossberg but was destroyed by Napoleon. Another impressive remainder of Graz' castle is the old bastion, which is only a 5-minute walk north. There, you can get up close to historic canons and enjoy more views across the river Mur, which runs past Schlossberg.
If you have good knees, descend Schlossberg via the winding stone staircase that snakes down from the clock tower. Alternatively, you can take the slide, which sweeps you all the way down the mountain. Once you’re back down in the city, cross the river and head to restaurant Der Steirer for local tapas. Graz is known for its fresh and simple cuisine, which sources from the surrounding region - locals call Graz Austria's "Culinary Capital."
Graz is home to the world’s largest historical armoury with around 32,000 objects. The collection of arms is still housed in the original 17th-century mansion on Herrengasse, Graz’ main shopping street. Inside, rows and rows of shining suits of armour give make it look like the museum is home to a silent army. You’ll also find tons of chainmail, daggers, swords, cannons, and even a body of armour for a warhorse. After spending an hour or two in this metallic time capsule, anyone will be ready to storm a medieval fortress.
Next, head to Graz’ bustling main square and up Sporgasse. It’s a winding cobblestone street that’s lined with colourful old-world buildings and some of Graz’ most picturesque store-fronts. A treat waits for you at the very top: the Hofbäckerei is a former Imperial bakery with a breathtaking, carved wood entryway and delicious pastries.
For dinner, head to Landhauskeller - a restaurant inside a stunning Renaissance courtyard called Landhaushof. The menu is full of refined Austrian cooking like Tafelspitz and a local fillet of trout, and on warm nights you can eat under the stars. Take time to soak in the atmosphere: the arcades around you are illuminated to show their intricate masonry.
The people of Graz get up early to be first in line at Kaiser Josef Markt. This historic farmers’ market spreads out underneath the opera house and is one of the city’s most iconic institutions. Wander the stands with fresh produce, meat, and warm country bread that just came fresh out of the oven. Getting hungry? Breakfast waits for you at one of the huts near the back: Rossian has farm-fresh eggs and a menu that changes daily.
Once you’ve filled up on Graz’ culinary offerings, walk past the opera house down Burggasse street. At the top, you’ll find a small, 15th-century city castle with a thick stone gateway. This stronghold used to connect to the castle on top of Schlossberg, and today it houses the provincial government.
While most of the castle is closed to visitors, you shouldn’t miss the Doppelwendeltreppe. This double spiral staircase is made up of two parallel spiral stairs that fuse on each floor, part and join together again. If your head starts to spin from going in circles, walk over to the castle garden. It's a secret hideaway for many city dwellers and has a picturesque Orangerie you can admire from outside.
For a bite among locals, walk two minutes to Cafe Promenade. It’s beautifully set below an alley of chestnut trees, inside a park pavilion. The menu mixes Styrian comfort food with modern international flavours.
The river Mur divides Graz into an East and a West bank. The West Bank is home to artsy, up-and-coming neighbourhoods like Lend and Gries, where you’ll find design stores and hip coffee shops. Closest to the city centre is Mariahilferstrasse, a shopping street for quirky souvenirs and great people-watching. Stop in at Paul&Bohne, which caters to coffee connoisseurs, students, and young creative types. Nearby Kwirl features products by local designers with a sustainable slant.
At sundown, Graz’ Mediterranean side takes over. The streets fill with warm yellow light and people drinking and eating outside. One of the most gorgeous spots to watch the sunset is actually in the river: the Murinsel (Mur island) is a floating, conch-shaped construction in the water with a sleek cafe. Grab a drink, sit back, and watch the sun go down over the river.
We’re back on dry land for dinner. Restaurant 13 is located at Franziskanerplatz, one of Graz’ most charming squares. The mixture of a high-standard restaurant, a cool bar and the Mediterranean flair on the square makes 13 a “place to eat” in Graz.
If you'd like to explore Graz the active way, try the app Sight Run! Download guided runs that include information on the attractions you pass.